Election Countdown: Trump rattles GOP, spars with Ryan on citizenship | Republicans under pressure to denounce Steve King | Dem confidence grows | Pelosi says Dems will take House | Party hopes young voters deliver blue wave | Tester fights for survival

Election Countdown: Trump rattles GOP, spars with Ryan on citizenship | Republicans under pressure to denounce Steve King | Dem confidence grows | Pelosi says Dems will take House | Party hopes young voters deliver blue wave | Tester fights for survival
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This is Election Countdown, The Hill's newsletter from Lisa Hagen (@LA_Hagen) and Max Greenwood (@KMaxGreenwood) that brings you the biggest stories on the campaign trail. We'd love to hear from you, so feel free to reach out to Lisa at LHagen@thehill.com and Max at MGreenwood@thehill.com with any questions, comments and suggestions for next year's Halloween costume. Click here to sign up.

 

We're 6 days from the 2018 midterm elections and 734 days from the 2020 elections.

 

Democrats are sounding a note of confidence on the likelihood of a House takeover six days out.

House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiIsrael boycott fight roils Democrats in year-end spending debate McConnell predicts no shutdown: Trump 'flexible' on border deal Ocasio-Cortez had highest percentage of small donors in midterms: report MORE, who's hoping to win back the Speaker's gavel next year, is already predicting victory for House Democrats on Election Day.

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In an appearance on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert," Pelosi was bullish on her party's prospects of recapturing a majority in the House, suggesting that there is not a doubt in her mind that the chamber will flip.

"Let me say this. Up until today, I would've said, 'If the election were held today, we would win,'" the California Democrat said Tuesday night. "What now I'm saying is, 'We will win.'"

And according to a CNBC report, Pelosi is privately telling donors and top advisers that she's hopeful Democrats can flip at least 30 seats--surpassing the 23-seat threshold for the majority.

That's a bold claim still six days out from the pivotal and unpredictable midterm elections. But a source familiar with Pelosi's thinking told The Hill's Melanie Zanona and Mike Lillis that her comment wasn't made flippantly.

 

There are a number of reasons why things look brighter for House Democrats.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpREAD: Transcript of James Comey's interview with House Republicans Klobuchar on 2020: ‘I do think you want voices from the Midwest’ Israel boycott fight roils Democrats in year-end spending debate MORE's falling approval rating, Democrats' massive fundraising advantage and district polls all show promising signs for the party in a number of competitive seats.

Plus, the last-minute shifting of money illustrates the changing -- and enlarging --battlefield. The House Republicans' campaign arm is now spending to protect the deep-red seat in South Carolina that'll be vacated by GOP Rep. Mark SanfordMarshall (Mark) Clement SanfordPelosi sees fierce resistance from White House if Dems seek Trump’s tax returns The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by The Embassy of the United Arab Emirates — Bush memorial service in Houston | House passes two-week spending measure | Markets drop after Chinese executive's arrest Incoming Dem lawmaker mocks Trump for referring to himself as 'President T' MORE. In contrast, Democrats' top House super PAC has been confident enough to cancel its spending in vulnerable Rep. Barbara ComstockBarbara Jean ComstockTrump attorney general pick a prolific donor to GOP candidates, groups: report Virginia New Members 2019 Defeated Republicans mocked by Trump fire back at president MORE's (R-Va.) seat.

Conservative firebrand Rep. Steve KingSteven (Steve) Arnold KingWeekly Standard co-founder to GOP's Steve King: You are 'a stain on American public life' Ex-Weekly Standard editor hits back at Steve King over criticism Dem pollster says most lawmakers lack tech policy knowledge MORE (R-Iowa) is even facing his toughest reelection race amid a sharp backlash from fellow Republicans for supporting white nationalist politicians.

 

(Spooky) Senate showdown

Just a few months ago, Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterSenate votes to overturn IRS guidance limiting donor disclosure Senate confirms Trump's pick to be deputy Treasury secretary O’Rourke is fireball, but not all Dems are sold MORE (D-Mont.) saw a clear path to reelection. But now, he's locked in a battle for survival as he seeks to stave off a challenge from Montana's Republican state auditor Matt Rosendale, The Hill's Alexander Bolton reports from Havre, Mont. Polls have tightened recently and Republicans are feeling energized from the confirmation fight over Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughDemocrats will fail if they portray William Barr as controversial pick ‘Justice’ selected as Merriam-Webster’s 2018 word of the year Chief justice of California Supreme Court leaves GOP over Kavanaugh confirmation MORE, putting Tester in an increasingly defensive position. Plus, Trump has made Tester a top target with repeated visits to Big Sky Country. The president is still fuming over Tester's role as the top Democrat on the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee in blowing up Ronny Jackson's nomination to head the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

 

Meanwhile, Libertarian Rick Breckenridge is all but dropping his bid for Sen. Jon Tester's (D) Montana seat. In a conference call with reporters on Wednesday, Breckenridge announced that he will support Republican candidate Matt Rosendale, acknowledging that he does not have the votes to win, The Hill's Lisa Hagen reports. The endorsement could give Rosendale a small boost on Election Day; libertarian candidates often siphon off votes from Republicans. But many people have already cast their ballots, leaving it unclear what kind of impact Breckenridge's decision could have on the race.

 

Sen. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyHatch warns Senate 'in crisis' in farewell speech Dem senators Heitkamp, Donnelly urge bipartisanship in farewell speeches Schumer gets ready to go on the offensive MORE (D-Ind.) sparred with GOP businessman Mike Braun on Tuesday in the final debate of Indiana's closely watched Senate race, going toe-to-toe on everything from health care to immigration. Both candidates sought to tie themselves to Trump. Here are five takeaways from the debate from The Hill's Emily Birnbaum and Jessie Hellman.

 

Race for the (Haunted) House

Trump's surprise revelation this week that he will try to end birthright citizenship for children of non-U.S. citizens is making some Republicans nervous, The Hill's Melanie Zanona and Juliegrace Brufke report. On one hand, it could give Republicans a boost in deep-red districts where Trump is popular. On the other, it could hurt the party's prospects in more moderate districts, particularly suburban areas, that are key for the GOP to retain its House majority.

 

On Wednesday, Trump also bashed Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) for rejecting his call to end birthright citizenship, deepening an intraparty feud just days before the midterms, reports The Hill's Jordan Fabian. "Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Flynn awaits sentencing | White House signals it wants to avoid shutdown Missing: Fiscal sanity in Washington On The Money: Latest on border wall fight | Dems prep for long shutdown | Trump finds himself isolated | Stocks sink ahead of Fed meeting, funding deadline | Trump offers new round of farm aid MORE should be focusing on holding the Majority rather than giving his opinions on Birthright Citizenship, something he knows nothing about!" the president tweeted. The tweet also fueled speculation that Trump was laying the groundwork to blame Ryan if the GOP lost the House.

 

But later Wednesday, Trump said that he wouldn't blame Ryan if Republicans lost the House. "No, I'm not going to blame anybody," Trump told reporters before departing for a rally in Florida. The president also defended his own campaigning in the midterms and said he'd helped improve the situation for many Republican candidates. "I've campaigned for a lot of candidates that were down a little bit and now they're up," he said. Trump also warned voters that if Republicans lose, "you're all going to lose a lot of money."

 

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and other GOP leaders are facing mounting pressure to speak out and take action against Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) for his public support of white nationalist candidates and racially offensive comments. The Anti-Defamation League on Wednesday urged GOP leaders to formally censure King and called on Ryan to strip King of his subcommittee chairmanship. The Hill's Scott Wong and Naomi Jagoda have the story.

Democratic operatives and insiders have fretted for weeks that Democrat Donna Shalala's bid to replace retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-LehtinenIleana Carmen Ros-LehtinenJuan Williams: The GOP's worsening problem with women GOP lawmaker tells party to stop focusing on 'white, male conservative' voters ‘Wake up, dudes’ — gender gap confounds GOP women MORE (R-Fla.) in Florida's 27th District had failed to gain traction. But the former Health and Human Services secretary is mounting a comeback against Republican and former TV broadcaster Maria Elvira Salazar, who has proven to be a far more formidable challenger than Democrats once anticipated, The Hill's Max Greenwood reports from Miami.

 

Democrats are banking on support from young voters to help take back majorities in Congress, The Hill's Naomi Jagoda reports. A majority of young voters favor a Democratic-controlled Congress over a Republican one and Trump's approval rating among likely young voters is dwindling at 25 percent, giving Democrats hope that they'll be able to turn out these voters in November. But whether dissatisfaction with Trump and the current GOP-controlled Congress will actually get young voters to the polls remains to be seen.

 

Survey says...

Nearly four out of five voters see the 2018 midterm elections as a chance to send a message to Trump, according to a new Harvard/Harris poll. In that survey, 42 percent of likely voters said that they see their vote as an opportunity to voice opposition to the president, while 37 percent said it's a chance to express support. The poll results reinforce a key theme of 2018: Trump is on voters' minds.

 

Fresh polling out of Texas continues to point to a Republican victory. Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzGroup launches campaign to 'Draft Beto' for 2020 White House bid Look out ‘losers’ — Trump focused on ‘winning’ The Memo: GOP frets as Trump shutdown looms MORE (R) leads Rep. Beto O'RourkeRobert (Beto) Francis O'RourkeDem pollster says it's 'misstated wisdom' to assume competitive primaries damage presidential nominees Group launches campaign to 'Draft Beto' for 2020 White House bid Kamala Harris top 2020 choice in poll of women of color MORE (D) by 10 points, according to a poll conducted by conservative-leaning Dixie Strategies and CBS 11. The survey also found that in the Texas gubernatorial race, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has a comfortable lead over Democratic opponent Lupe Valdez, 59 to 33 percent.

 

Rep. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnGOP Sen. Lamar Alexander won't seek reelection Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by Amgen — ObamaCare signups lag behind last year despite recent surge | Drug company offers cheaper opioid overdose treatment after hiking price 600 percent | CDC calls fentanyl deadliest drug in US GOP struggles to win votes for Trump’s B wall demand MORE (R-Tenn.) holds a 5-point lead over former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) in the race to replace retiring GOP Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerThe Hill's Morning Report — What a shutdown would mean for the government GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander won't seek reelection Corker dodges on Trump primary question MORE, according to a new NBC News/Marist poll released Tuesday. Blackburn breaks 50 percent in the poll, leading Bredesen 51 to 46 percent, an edge just within the poll's 5.7-percent margin of error.

 

Democrats hold a 5-point lead over Republicans on a generic congressional ballot less than a week out. The Economist/YouGov poll released Wednesday found 47 percent would vote for the Democratic candidate if the election was held today, compared to 42 percent who would cast a ballot for the GOP candidate. Seven percent are undecided; 2 percent say they won't vote.

 

Rep. Leonard LanceLeonard LanceIncoming Dem lawmaker: Trump 'sympathizes' with leaders 'accused of moral transgressions' On The Money: Why the tax law failed to save the GOP majority | Grassley opts for Finance gavel, setting Graham up for Judiciary | Trump says China eager for trade deal | Facebook reeling after damning NYT report Tax law failed to save GOP majority MORE (R-N.J.) is trailing his Democratic opponent Tom Malinowski by 3 points in one of New Jersey's top swing seats this cycle. Malinowski, a human rights activist and former State Department official, leads Lance, 47 to 44 percent among likely voters in a new Monmouth University poll. The Democrat's lead is within the poll's 5.2-percent margin of error.

 

Follow the (mummy)

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has raised more than $100 million online in the 2018 election cycle. Politico reports that the group's online fundraising hit the nine-figure mark on Tuesday. Its average donation size was $19, a committee aide told the news site. For context, by this point in 2016, the DCCC had raised $67 million online – its previous record.

 

Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisDem pollster says it's 'misstated wisdom' to assume competitive primaries damage presidential nominees Kamala Harris top 2020 choice in poll of women of color Warren unveils bill to lower drug prices by letting government manufacture them MORE (D-Calif.), who's rumored to be weighing a potential 2020 presidential bid, has raised more than $2.3 million this cycle for her leadership PAC, Fearless for the People PAC, The Hill's Tal Axelrod reports. The massive fundraising haul is likely to boost speculation that Harris is eyeing a White House run. Politicians often use leadership PACs to raise their own profiles ahead of presidential runs, and Harris has already made campaign stops in key presidential primary states, including Iowa, South Carolina and Florida.

 

314 Action Fund, a group that aims to elect candidates with STEM backgrounds to office, is increasing its TV ad spending on South Carolina's 1st District to boost ocean engineer Joe Cunningham (D). The group has spent a total of $428,000 on three TV ad buys in addition to a $40,000 digital buy. 314 Action has been steadily investing in the race, which once appeared more of a long-shot in the coastal, Charleston-area district. But now more national groups are paying attention, with the National Republican Congressional Committee making a late ad buy to help Republican Katie Arrington, who defeated Rep. Mark Sanford in the state's GOP primary.

 

What we're watching for

Campaign trail:

--Oct. 31: Former Vice President Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenKlobuchar on 2020: ‘I do think you want voices from the Midwest’ Group launches campaign to 'Draft Beto' for 2020 White House bid Kamala Harris top 2020 choice in poll of women of color MORE will be in Bridgeton, Mo. for Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillThe Year Ahead: Tech braces for new scrutiny from Washington McCaskill: 'Too many embarrassing uncles' in the Senate FEC votes to allow lawmakers to use campaign funds for personal cybersecurity MORE.

--Nov. 1: Biden will be in Fargo, N.D. for Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampHatch warns Senate 'in crisis' in farewell speech Dem senators Heitkamp, Donnelly urge bipartisanship in farewell speeches House passes bipartisan bill aimed at reversing rising maternal mortality rates MORE (D).

--Nov. 2: Former President Obama will campaign for Georgia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams in Atlanta. He'll also be stumping for Democrat Andrew Gillum, who's running for Florida governor, in Miami.

Trump rallies (All times in ET):

--Oct. 31 in Fort Myers, Fla. at 7 p.m.

--Nov. 1 in Columbia, Mo. at 7:30 p.m.

--Nov. 2 in Huntington, W. Va. at 4 p.m.

--Nov. 3 in Pensacola, Fla. at 7:30 p.m.

Debates:

--Nov. 1: West Virginia Senate debate

--Nov. 4: Georgia gubernatorial debate

 

Coming to a TV near (boo)

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum is out with a new ad spotlighting diversity as a strength in Florida's nationally watched gubernatorial race. The spot comes as race emerges as an issue in the contest. Gillum would be Florida's first African-American governor if elected, while his opponent, former Rep. Ron DeSantisRonald Dion DeSantisGoogle's most-searched politician of 2018 is Stacey Abrams Republicans are winning minority voters to make difference in 2020 Gillum to speak at gathering of top Dem donors: report MORE (R), has faced a series of race-related controversies throughout the contest.

 

And in Florida's Senate race, Republican Gov. Rick Scott is spotlighting his efforts to help Floridians recover from a recent hurricane in a new ad, casting himself as a unifier who will bring civility to Washington. The spot signals an abrupt change of tone for the ad war in Florida. For weeks, Scott and Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonMcCaskill: 'Too many embarrassing uncles' in the Senate Bill Nelson uses farewell address to remind colleagues ‘no one person is above the law’ Coal supporter Manchin named top Dem on Senate Energy Committee MORE (D-Fla.) have launched a flurry of ads attacking one another.

 

The Congressional Leadership Fund, the GOP super PAC aligned with Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), is launching a new ad in Michigan's 8th District, re-entering the hotly contested race between Rep. Mike Bishop (R) and Democrat Elissa Slotkin after previously withdrawing from the district. The 30-second spot features a gaffe in which Slotkin said that she puts "party before country" and suggests that, if elected, she'll be a shill for Pelosi.

 

1600 Transylvania Ave.

While campaigning for Democratic candidates in the early primary state of New Hampshire, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) said he's "leaning strongly" toward running for president in 2020. "I'm the governor of Colorado and I'm gonna run for president," Hickenlooper said, before quickly adding he hasn't "made a final decision" and that he's "leaning strongly" toward it, but said, "if I say I'm absolutely doing it then there are all kinds of legal ramifications."

 

What they're saying

In an op-ed for The Hill, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom PerezThomas Edward PerezClinton’s top five vice presidential picks Government social programs: Triumph of hope over evidence Labor’s 'wasteful spending and mismanagement” at Workers’ Comp MORE argues that "bigotry" will "be on the ballot" when voters head to the polls next week. "Our nation faces a moral crisis, and the best way forward is to elect leaders with the moral fortitude to stand up to hatred, to pass common-sense gun laws that will make our communities safer, and to summon our better angels of unity and inclusion during challenging times," he writes.